Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas and Eat your veggies!

Well.  Here we are a couple days after Christmas, and I'm on here trying to decide what to use my limited amount of time to write about while my parents watch my kids.  Hmmm.  I've had several topics running through my head that I considered blogging about lately.  1) Eating vegetables,  2) Community  or 3) Christmas.   The one I really want to write about it community, but it's kind of deep, at least for me, and I'm not sure I can delve into that right now.  So as usual, I think I'm just going to write about food.  I'm shallow and obsessed.  So I'll combine 1 and 3 somehow.

Since the beginning of the year, when I decided to make war on sugar and vegetable oil (in our home at least, you can only do so much), we have been eating a lot more vegetables and trying new things, and new ways to cook things.  We 'experiment' a lot .  Having said that, I think I always come back around to my all time favorite way to cook most vegetables is just to roast them.  Pretty much any veggie is fantastic roasted, and you can combine them and make little dressings for them to switch things up a little.  Even if you are a beginner, you can roast vegetables.  Just cut them up, throw on some olive oil, salt, pepper, and roast at any range of temperatures until they are done to your liking.  My normal go-to is 400 degrees for about 30 or 40 minutes depending on how small I chop up the veggies.   Green beans, asparagus (although this only needs a couple minutes, or it will be mushy and nasty), beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash (or any kind for that matter), parsnips, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower even.  You can play around with them and add other herbs or spices, or fruit even.  For Christmas dinner this year, I found a recipe (Southern Living) that added cranberries at the end and tossed the veggies in a couple Tablespoons of molasses.

I also made this kale and mustard green gratin out of Bon Appetit (I clearly get too many cooking magazines) that was so good that I actually ate the leftovers for lunch two days in a row and still loved it.  Veggies can be so good if you cook them the right way, it is a shame that people don't eat them very often.  I mean, it's tragic really.  If people would eat a plate full of vegetables then they would be able to eat things like this:

And you could eat the crispy fried fat right off of the top and not feel guilty about it in the least (although, if you eat more than 3 pieces, it's like having too much cake, you start to feel a little sick because it's so rich.  Not that I know that from experience or anything).

And then you can eat things like this Buche de Noel...

...with it's tasty little meringue mushrooms to make it look legitimately log-like, and the chocolate and cream icing, and the kahlua syrup on the inside.  And I must confess here:  I purchased granulated sugar for the dessert.  I honestly did feel guilty about that.  This was the first granulated sugar purchase in all of 2012, and I bought the smallest bag they make so that I wouldn't be tempted to use it on other stuff. I was afraid my other sugar wouldn't work for the meringue.  So I just ate extra veggies to make up for it.  I somehow convinced myself that the mustard greens were absorbing all of the poison from the sugar so that it was just passing right through my body.  I think I believed it on Christmas day, but when I ate the leftover dessert the day after I wasn't as convinced.  But since that day happened to fall on Wednesday, which is the day I usually poison myself anyway with Dr. Pepper, I just lumped it all together.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gluten Free and More

So,  we were supposed to have company today.  I was very excited about this meal because one of the people, or maybe the combination of them left me with a challenge: No gluten, no corn, no dairy, and no peanuts.  I've been exploring the no gluten thing for a while, because I have self diagnosed myself with some sort of gluten intolerance... but the corn and dairy and gluten all at the same time were going to be a challenge.  It ended up being fine, even though they couldn't make it, which just gives me another opportunity to do it again later.  We enjoyed the meal, and I was a little bit excited about 2 of the dishes because I got to use some new oil and vinegar that I am totally obsessed with, so I thought I'd share.

First I have to explain my obsession. Veronica foods produces the best olive oil and vinegar you will ever in your life eat. I have been waiting for a store to open in Augusta that carries their stuff... I really can't explain it, you have to just try the stuff yourself.  If you don't live here, contact them and ask what stores are in your area, this stuff is life changing.

OK, so the two things I made with my new acquisitions were a roasted butternut squash with fresh sage, salt and pepper, tossed in the blood orange infused olive oil.  I did put just a tad of a sprinkle of rapadura sugar on it - you could also use honey.  This was so good- the best butternut I've ever had.

Second was dessert,  which was particularly challenging considering no gluten or corn or dairy.  I was a little at a loss, so I made rice pudding.  Something that I have never eaten or had the desire to eat, but it seemed like an easy fix - I could just use coconut milk.  So that is what I did, using arborio rice and rapadura (1/2 cup rice, boiled for ten minutes before cooking in the 4 cups coconut milk and 1/3 cup sugar.). It was actually tasty just like this, but then after chilling, I drizzled espresso vinegar on top and it was awesome.

So there you have it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Set your ovens!

Ok, so it was finally my Sunday to cook.  If you recall, I promised to put crowd size recipes on here about a month ago, and have yet to do it.  Anyway, I had the absolute hardest time deciding what to make, and so when I'm indecisive, my fall back is typically brunch.  I have made most of these dishes enough that even though I still have to follow a recipe, I'm comfortable with them.  They are all mostly make-ahead, and you can easily adjust the quantities for a large crowd or small.   At lunch today we had 19 people, although a few of them don't eat much.  7 adults, 6 teenagers, and 6 little people that might equal one adult if you add all of them together.  Ansley would make up half of that adult.  My girl loves her brunch.

The menu:

Shrimp & Grits
Oven Potatoes
Fruit Salad
Brussels Sprouts Salad
Sweet Potato Bread

I didn't truly make up any of these, because I am generally not an original person.  I just like to put my personal flare on things.  So, here are the recipes.

Shrimp  &  Grits:  This is straight up out of an old Cooking Light magazine.  Except that I unlightened it.

Modifications:  Use whole milk and full fat cream cheese.  I firmly believe that if the Lord wanted us to eat natural foods low-fat, He would have made them that way. Also, grease your pan with butter.  Don't feel guilty about it.  I also believe that He probably never intended us to eat anything you can spray out of a can.  You can assemble this completely the day before and pop it in the oven to cook so that it's hot right before you want to eat it.


This is a recipe that I found in an old Williams Sonoma catalog for a frittata, and I made it a quiche.  It's not as pretty as the frittata would be, but easier, because you don't have to have a frittata pan, and you also don't have to worry about the whole wagon-wheel-spoke thing. Incidentally, this is my all time favorite quiche, and I don't make any other recipe anymore.  Once you have something this good, you just don't keep looking.

Modifications:  I only use 7 eggs, and add 3/4 cup of half & half or heavy cream.  I also normally use dried tarragon instead of fresh, and I can never find chervil anywhere, so never, not one time, have I ever put this in.   Also, I generally only use 1 lb of asparagus, because I use more than just the tips.  If you only use the tips then you'll need 2 lbs.  Here is a picture of how I cut the asparagus.

I cut it after I blanched it.  You could cut it first and then blanch it, and if you choose to do that, it would probably be a little easier, because you could use a mandoline to do your cutting.  Just keep the asparagus rubber banded together and slice the ends.  I chose not to do this, because I have had some seriously unfortunate knife incidents over the last couple of weeks, ever since we got my knives sharpened.  I have almost cut off my middle finger on my left hand, my thumb on my right hand, and I've stabbed my left hand twice.  Thus, I am trying to avoid razor sharp blades for the moment.  Final modification is that I put this in a pie crust, and then cook it at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. True confessions: I take a short cut on my pie crust.  It sort of goes against everything in my being to do this, but if you have to take a short cut somewhere, this is where I would choose to do it.  I just buy the refrigerated pie crust.    Note:  today, since we had so many people, I made 2 of these, and in one of them I put 4 oz. sliced mushrooms instead of asparagus.  If you choose to do this, sautee them with the leeks first.   The way I do this make-ahead is that I mix everything together in a bowl, and then stick it in the fridge the day before.  When it's time to bake, just roll out your pie crust and pour the quiche into the pan.  It takes like 2 minutes to do that.  You might could cook it ahead of time and then reheat it, but I've never tried that and I'm not sure how much time it would actually save anyway.  Moving on.

Oven potatoes:

Cube potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Toss them in a little olive oil and cajun seasoning.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  I didn't really put quantities because you sort of just have to decide this based on how many people you are having over.  I used about 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes, a couple tablespoons of oil and a tablespoon or so of seasoning, but you could do more or less depending on how spicy you want your 'taters.
I didn't make this ahead of time, but you could.  If you make it too far in advance the potatoes will discolor, unless you use purple ones, then you can't tell if they discolor or not. So if you choose to slice your potatoes ahead of time, I recommend submerging them in water until you are ready to bake them then toss with the oil and seasoning.

Fruit Salad:

Pretty self explanatory.  This I wouldn't make ahead, but you can assign one of your guests to cut up the fruit and assemble it so that you can be making other preparations.  I like berries in mine, which is why I don't do ahead, but if you were doing melon or something you could totally make it ahead of time and it would be fine.

Brussels Sprout Salad:

Love this salad! My sweet friend Robyn introduced me to this salad and it is a go-to for potlucks.  It's a little more than what my family will eat, but I love making it for a crowd!  I don't know where she got it, so I'm just retyping it below:

1 lb. brussels sprouts, sliced with the slicer blade on the food processor
1/2 cup grated Gruyere, or Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmesan
6 oz. walnuts or pecans in small pieces
9 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

So mix first 3 ingredients together.  Put remaining ingredients in a bowl and shake it up until it comes together.  You can also add a tsp. of maple syrup to this, which I would recommend b/c it is awesome.
Toss salad with dressing.  Now, to make ahead, I would just NOT dress the salad.  Do that just before you serve it.  But you can mix the sprouts, cheese and nuts together, and then separately make the dressing ahead of time.  Also, I like to throw some raisins or cranberries in here, too.  Tasty!

Sweet Potato Bread: 

This was out of this month's Cooking Light, with modifications to unlighten it and make it more nutritious. Since I can't find it online yet, I'll just type it here.  But I'm gonna type it the way I made it.

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
3 oz plain greek yogurt
1 oz creme fraiche [Note on previous two ingredients:  you are going for 4 oz. of a thick, yogurty type thing here, I used what I had]
1/2 cup rapadura
1/4 cup rendered lard [so, you could use butter, coconut oil, lots of different things here]
2 eggs
1/2 cup packed shredded sweet potato
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted.

cream cheese
lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix first 7 ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix yogurt through eggs.  Add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist.  Gently fold in sweet potato, dates, and pecans.

Bake in a floured, greased 9X5 pan (ok, so I have a silicone pan, which doesn't require greasing, but if you do grease a pan, see my above note on eating things sprayed out of a can) for 40 minutes, until done (check w/a  toothpick).  Cool 10 minutes, remove from pan, and then if you want an "icing" you can mix the cream cheese and lemon juice together until a thin enough consistency to spread on top.  I didn't think the bread really needed this, so you could kind of go either way.  I made 2 of these for this size crowd.

And there you have it.  It seems like a lot, but really, if you do all the make-ahead parts, all you are doing right before meal time is:

Pouring the quiche in the crusts, popping them, with the other already prepared things in the oven, tossing your salad, and cutting up some fruit.

Final note:   If you don't have a convection oven or two, then allow for a little longer cooking times because this is a whole lotta stuff in one oven.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My last post on ice cream

Ok, so try #3 on coconut was a success.  I finally got a coconut with a lot of milk in it, and it actually came out.  I poked a bigger hole through the soft spots, so maybe that had something to do with it.  But I could actually hear all the milk inside when I shook the thing up, so I was determined to get it out this time.  Instead of my phillips head screwdriver and hammer, I used the biggest flat head one that I had and twisted it around in that hole forever it seems.  Either my method or my choice of coconut paid off.  I got 2/3 cup of coconut water out of that baby!  And then, when I baked it at 350 degrees I checked it at 15 minute intervals and it had cracked perfectly somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes.  It hadn't dried out yet at 30 minutes in the slightest bit, and was much easier to peel.  All in all, I am so glad I made a 3rd attempt, because it wasn't as hard as I had made it the 1st two times. Anyway, after pureeing the freshly peeled coconut with the coconut water, and then adding a can of coconut milk, I had almost 4 cups of liquid already, so there was a very minimal amount of cream to be added.  Then I added 3/4 cup of syrup, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice, and voila, perfect coconut ice cream.

I also made another ice cream that my mother was working on while I was working on coconut.  She was given the ingredients from a staff member at Robert Levine's restaurant in Hilton Head, and perfected the quantities.  I basically made vanilla ice cream: 3 cups cream, 3/4 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla (this is my new standard, go to vanilla recipe).  Then added 1 tsp cinnamon (but I actually love cinnamon, so I added a little more), and 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp of Frank's hot sauce.  It's technically supposed to be Tabasco.  So if you use Tabasco, I wouldn't use as much b/c it's a little hotter than the Franks.  Listen, this wasn't that hot, but it had a sweet little bite at the end and all of my kids who are spicy-averse loved this ice cream and ate it right up.  It was a huge hit!  Very tasty.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Coconut Ice Cream, Take 2

This was so much better.  I forgot the lime, but I'm totally ok with that.

1 coconut
1 can of coconut milk
approx. 1 cup cream
3/4 c. of maple syrup
1-2 tsp. vanilla

So, this time, I cooked the coconut at 350 degrees until it cracked.  Maybe a little longer.  The thing is I was expecting it to take a while since it never happened last time, and I didn't check it until it had been in there for an hour already, and it had cracked.  It had started drying out (and this one did have milk in it, but I couldn't get it out!  I get an F on opening coconuts) already, but it was still slightly moist.  So after I got all the meat out, I put it in the food processor and pureed it with the entire can of coconut milk.  Then I chilled it.  It measured about 3 cups, so I put enough cream in my measure to equal 4 cups of liquid.  Then I poured in the maple syrup, and I didn't actually measure the vanilla, but I am guessing it was closer to 2 teaspoons than 1.  I love vanilla.  Anyway, this was wonderful.  It totally satisfied the craving and I'm not one bit sad that I forgot to add the lime.  Colin didn't like it, but Ansley, Silas, both babies and our Chinese exchange student all ate a huge bowl.  And no I'm not kidding. Length of stay tbd. ;)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The best fried chicken ever

This is wonderful. Of course it is, because it's Thomas Keller. I never thought I could love fried chicken this much. Especially one that I made in my own kitchen, because as much as I cook, I don't often fry.  You'd think frying would be one of the easier things to do, but I don't have a deep fryer, so I just use a saucepan,  and I'm cheap on the whole oil thing.  This is probably the reason that most of my early frying attempts failed so miserably.  But I've finally figured out how to use the least amount of oil (or preferably, beef fat) and succeed and so I don't feel like I'm wasting it all.  Plus I'm really cheap and will often fry in the beef fat twice, depending on what I fried the first time.  Oh yeah, and I don't have a thermometer to measure how hot the oil is.  So you can see why I had so many failed attempts.  I still pretty much just guess, but I'm a better guesser now after having messed up so many times. Anyway, this is really, really delicious.  Please make it. Your taste buds, not to mention your whole family, will thank you.

You have to brine it:
2.5 lemons
12 bay leaves
2 oz bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 oz bunch thyme
1/4 cup honey
1/2 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/8 c. peppercorns
1 cup (5oz) kosher salt
1 gallon water

Bring to a boil and then cool, chill, and put your (cut up) chicken in it!  Don't almost cut your middle finger off when halving the garlic through the equator, though.  It's really difficult to type with a bandaid on.  Also, he recommends that you not brine your chicken for longer than 12 hours, because it will get pretty salty.  I can believe it.  I don't use a lot of salt, so this chicken was noticeably salty.  But it was great.  I brined for right at the 12 hours.

Now he has a buttermilk fried chicken recipe that has the exact spice-flour-chicken-buttermilk combo.  If you want that I'd be happy to send it to you, because it was great.  But I'm not going to type it all out here.   I think the key to this delicious chicken was the brining.  The breading was great, a little spice to it, which I loved, Russ loved, the kids pulled off.  Everyone cleaned their plates though and I gave them a pretty good sized portion!

P.S. I used whole wheat flour for my breading, and fried in beef fat.  So I did break from the directions, just a little.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In my ice cream maker......

I've got the following concoction.  But I need to preface this, with this fact: It's partly an accidental concoction, as are a lot of my culinary experiences.

1 cup shredded, totally dried out coconut
3 cups heavy cream (it is ice CREAM after all)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp bourbon vanilla
1 Tbsp. lime juice
the zest of 1 lime
toasted, dried out, coconut (which sounds redundant) will be added after it is finished in the ice cream maker.

You see, I have never in my life made anything with a fresh coconut before. I intended to make this ice cream differently than I did.  But, I sort of misread, or mis-remembered to be more accurate, the directions on preparing a fresh coconut.  So, I poked holes in the soft spots, and no milk came out.  Not sure if I even bought a good coconut.  Off to a bad start.  Then,  I wanted to crack it open, so I put it in the oven like the directions I was following told me to do, but here's where I messed up.  I was supposed to put it in the oven at 350 degrees until it cracked, and then after I got the meat out and pureed it, dry it out in the oven at 150 degrees for like 12 hours.  BUT, since my brain is very literally mush most days, I remembered this backwards, and so I baked the coconut for 12 hours at 180 because my oven doesn't go down to 150, and it never cracked.  Then I read the directions again and realized my mistake.  So I cooked it at 350 for another hour or so and it still didn't crack.  SO I just took my mallet out to the back yard and put that stubborn coconut on my concrete table and started beating the ever living daylights out of it until it cracked open.  I found a nicely dried out interior of my coconut.  It was at this point, extremely difficult to peel away the shell, but I was pretty determined to have this ice cream.  So after I did that I put it in my food processor and made coconut that is about the consistency of bread crumbs.  It's totally dry.  So, I put a cup of this in my ice cream, and I'm at this moment toasting the rest of the coconut crumbs to mix in approximately 15 minutes.  I'm shaking the pan a bit every few minutes so that they are evenly toasted and not burned to a crisp.  I still have enough cream left to try it the way I originally intended later this week, once we eat this, and I buy another coconut.  

In the meantime, I thought I'd tell you about this wonderful peach salad I discovered last night.  It was absolutely wonderful, and I might have to fix it weekly until peach season is over.  It was in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc cookbook that I mentioned before, and if you want the actual recipe I'll send it to you. But it had arugula, endive, toasted almonds, peaches, and this great peach vinaigrette dressing.  The dressing was made with white wine vinegar, olive oil, shallots, salt, pepper, and a peach puree.  The peach puree is the part I am most excited about - it's pretty much just peaches, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Since I refuse to cook with white sugar, I used the rapadura.  You cook this for a while until it reaches the setting point, which I don't have any idea if mine ever did, because believe it or not, I don't have a candy thermometer.  Why I don't just buy one I haven't figured out yet.  So I just pretty much guess, and sometimes we're good and sometimes we're not.  But it worked out last night, and I had tons of left over.  You're wondering why this was exciting.  Well I mixed it into our plain yogurt this morning, and EVERYONE ate it.  My kids have been on a yogurt strike since I started making it at home, and I refuse to sweeten it with white sugar, so we've been at sort of a standoff.  Peach puree may have just saved the day here.

7 minutes left on my ice cream......

Friday, August 24, 2012

My top 3 cookbooks (that I own)

So, after being chastised twice in the same day by two different people for still having cinnamon rolls on the blog, I am updating this, but it will be brief.  Maybe.  I get a little talky sometimes.  Anyway, I thought I would make a couple of cookbook recommendations because these are such good and useful cookbooks in my house.

I have 3 favorites that are practical.  Well 2 of them are really practical and the other one is mostly practical.

1) The 150 best slow cooker recipes   I haven't cooked everything in this, but I'm just gonna tell you that everything I have cooked is wonderful.  And I have cooked a lot out of it.  If you like to use your crock pot, get this cookbook.

2) Williams -Sonoma Comfort Food  It's Williams-Sonoma, so it should be pretty self-explanatory, but as was true of the previous cookbook, everything I have made out of this cookbook is awesome.  I particularly love the corn fritters dipped in maple syrup, and the short ribs and polenta, and the shrimp scampi, and the carne asada, and the coconut cake, and the kids loved the sloppy joes and the spagetti  and meatballs.  I mean, you sort of can't go wrong.  I'm probably forgetting some of the other wonderful things that I love to make, frequently out of this.  BTW Laura, the corn fritters are the other thing I fry a lot besides okra in the tallow.  And by a lot I mean like once a month, maybe.  But that's a lot for me.

3)  Ad Hoc At Home  This one is Thomas Keller.  We've already established that I sort of idol worship him just a little bit, and this one isn't always particularly practical.  But it's always delicious.  Always.  And while we're talking about it, there was this GREAT article about the Pioneer Woman vs. Thomas Keller and this lady made the exact same meal out of both cookbooks.  You should read it. I can't summarize it and do it justice.

So there you have it.  My "go-to's."  Which probably shouldn't have an apostrophe, but I'm a little bit of a perfectionist at times and the spell checker didn't like it without the apostrophe.

We are in the midst of homeschooling and traveling, and birthdays, and all kinds of exciting things.  So this blog has sort of fallen to the bottom of the list of things for me to do.  However, I love having people over, and I love cooking, and I know lots of people who also love to do this, but I know lots of people who are afraid to do it.  So, if I can remember, I'm going to try to put down my recipes of stuff that I make when we have lots of people over.  Because I like to do make-ahead set your oven timer or crock pot type dishes, because they're easy.  But I also like making great food as often as possible, and so this can sometimes be a challenge.  I'm also going to try and make up a top-secret ice cream recipe for our ice cream cook-off in a couple of weeks.  I've been dreaming about this ice cream for like 2 days now and I can hardly stand waiting to make it.  So stay-tuned.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls: Revised

Ok, so I know I'm getting as bad as my cousins with my updating here, and when you only blog on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, there's just too much of life to even begin to write about.  We all got well,  went to Atlanta a few times, Bennett had 2 surgeries, Colin has become obsessed with fishing, the babies are in to everything, Misty came to visit, Silas turned 3, and Ansley is still coming up with wonderful things to say and do that has me questioning what I'm going to have deal with when she is a teenager. And Russ and I had an anniversary - #9.  How is that possible? Time flies. So I'm going to update my cinnamon roll recipe, you know, the important stuff :)

I have been playing with this thing for years trying to make it more nutritious, because frankly, we love our cinnamon rolls.  I make them once a week, and the white flour, white sugar version of old although quite tasty was going to immediately give all of us diabetes at some point, so I had to do something to it.  After trying things with sweet potatoes, stevia, and all sorts of other things, I think I've settled on a recipe that is acceptable.  I'm gonna be honest, it's too different from the original recipe to really compare it, but it had to be.  There's no way I'm gonna make it taste like that using stuff that's actually good for you.  But this is a pretty tasty substitute:

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use the White Wheat, because it's a little milder, and no I don't grind it myself.  Yet.  One day.  Baby steps folks baby steps)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup whole buttermilk (sometimes I add a tablespoon or two if it seems too dry)
8 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup of rapadura (or coconut sugar)
cinnamon to taste.  I probably use a couple of tablespoons because I love a strong cinnamon flavor.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix first 4 ingredients together.

Add oil and mix until crumbly (note:  in case you aren't familiar with coconut oil, it is liquid when it's hot in your house [like 78 or so] and solid when it's cold. It mixes in a lot more evenly when in the liquid state, so if it's cold in your house I would recommend heating it on the STOVE until liquid).

Add buttermilk (which will make the coconut oil cool off and clump together, so it's important that you get it mixed in really good before you do this step.  Or you can just have chunks of it.  I've done this in the past, because I'm just lazy like that sometimes, and they turn out fine).

Knead for a few minutes, and then roll out.  I roll it out really big so I can make lots of smaller sized cinnamon rolls instead of 8 big ones.  This way we eat less, and since this is still sugar, although a healthier sugar, we don't need to just fall off the deep end here.

Spread the butter all over (softened or melted butter works best), then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon all over it, roll it up, slice it and put in a pie or cake pan to bake for approximately 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

When I made these today, I made 15 cinnamon rolls because I had rolled it out.  So once everyone had had two, it was really like eating one of the other ones.  It's all psychological, really.  If you would rather just eat one big one then just make 8 big cinnamon rolls.  My kids always ask for a second one, regardless of the size, so I make them teeny so that I can say "sure" and the kids think I'm just being overly generous that particular morning.   One additional note, if you use the rapadura vs. the coconut sugar these are going to have a slightly more molassassy (is that even a word?) taste to them.  I don't love an overly molassassy flavor, so I spread a little bit of my homemade cream cheese on top, and it took the edge off.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Deep Thoughts and the Deep End

This is gonna be so short because I have no time to blog these days.  We have been sick/recovering off and on for 6 weeks.  I feel like in some ways, this is punishment for the pride I had earlier in February (just one week before everyone got pink eye which started this whole infinite seeming season of sickness) I had boasted to myself that we made it through the winter without getting sick once.  Note to self:  stop counting your chickens before they hatch.

So, having said that I have had all sorts of deep thoughts related to stewardship, and the parable of the talents and how I feel that the Lord gave me 5 of them, and how serious a thing it is to be raising them up to His Glory instead of taking it lightly. I mean, I could really go on about this, but how purposeful I should be with what I invest in these little people.

So, finish deep thought yourself, because I have also fallen off the deep end when it comes to our eating and have decided to swear off all sugar and vegetable oils.  This is also serious.  I actually threw food in the trash the other day because I can no longer in good conscious purchase and consume foods that contain these ingredients.  I vowed to start making my own condiments because everything that you purchase that is premade and I mean everything contains one or both of the taboo ingredients.  I still intend to eat out.  But I just don't want any of that stuff in my house any more.  It would take far too long for me to explain, and this is not an overnight thing.  It's a process, which leads me to a second deep thought regarding Christianity and how it too is a process and everyone is in a different spot in their walk.  The Ephesians study at BSF was really bringing this out to me, and I kept thinking how many parallels there were between my food obsession and Christianity.  "It's a process" has been my mantra for the last 2 weeks.  It's been great.

At any rate, we are here, and alive, and thinking, and if you'll excuse me, two of my talents are crying and I need to go check on my beef tallow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The aftermath

We have been sick for about a week now.  I've thought a number of times we were on the upswing, and hopefully now we really are.  Crazy.  As soon as the dinner was over, Bennett woke up with pink eye the next morning.  Before lunch Silas had it, by bedtime Graham was getting it, Ansley woke up with it Sunday and before breakfast was over that morning Colin had it.  At first I thought the problem was primarily pink eye, except that Bennett had an extremely high fever, so I took him to the doctor Sunday afternoon and found out that he had ear infections in both ears.  I got a prescription for eye drops for everyone else and thought we were doing better.  Then Monday night Colin started running a fever, so Tuesday I took all 5 kids to the doctor, because Silas was extremely fussy, as was Graham, and well, everyone else was going to Ansley may as well.  At that point, all of the boys had ear infections in both ears.  So all 4 boys were on antibiotics, and Ansley was still on eyedrops.  So I thought by the time Wednesday was over we should all be in good shape.  Wrong again - at bedtime Wednesday, Ansley started running a fever.  Thursday she woke up fine, so I waited a little bit before calling the doctor.  By lunch she had told me that her ear hurt, and I had determined something was wrong with Bennett.  He slept until 10, and wanted to only be held.  He was a limp noodle in my arms.  Graham didn't have a whole lot more life to him, but he would at least eat and drink like normal.  On top of both of them running a fever all day, Bennett would hardly eat, and wouldn't drink.  So I was starting to get worried about him being dehydrated and was pretty sure that by the doctor would want us in the hospital.  So we didn't get in to the doctor until 4:30.  By 10 that night, we had chest xrays and iv fluids and iv antibiotics and confirmed pneumonia.  It had been a year since any one was in the hospital, so I guess we were due.  He was still pretty lethargic Friday, although he did wake up a couple of times and he ate a little - still wouldn't drink anything.  But Graham was going downhill fast at home, so we made an appt. for him.  He too, was suspected of having pneumonia, but it took over an hour for R. to get him to the hospital because we had this awful storm.  Roads were closed, huge hail had been coming down, trees had fallen, power lines in our neighborhood had caught fire, so the power was out at our house where the other 3 kids were with a dear sweet friend who later cloroxed my whole house (THANK YOU!).  At any rate, the final diagnosis was a nasty virus that the whole family had, turned bacterial pneumonia in the babies, and after a few rounds of antibiotics and observation and xrays, and Bennett had oxygen once b/c he couldn't breath (which left a nice tape mark on his face that is just now going away), they let us come home.  Russ and I had a date in the hospital watching 'The Notebook' which I had never seen, but really liked (another sweet friend loaned this to me for us to watch while she bravely had the older 3 kids sleep over at her house).  And I didn't cry that much, until I was driving home from the hospital today and thought about it again. Anyway, we're home now and I ate brussel sprouts for lunch to try to counteract the week long eating out and hospital food.  Hopefully this time, we're really on the mend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dinner Time!

Well, it is always amazing to me how so much prep goes into this dinner, and then just like that, it's over.  
Before I get into all the details though, I have to tell you that right as the dinner was starting, I find out that our friend who is allergic to shellfish has actually eaten at the French Laundry.  I should've know.  This guy knows everyone and has eaten everywhere.  He's probably bff with Thomas Keller, too but I already felt additional pressure since he had something to compare it with, and I couldn't take any more. 

Here is our menu:

Here are all of the dishes that we used for the 5 of us to eat.  This was before they were dirty and stacked all over the kitchen.

And this is what the kids ate.  Hot dogs and macaroni and cheese from the box.  Isn't that awful?  I guess the only redeeming thing about it, is that it's their absolute favorite things to eat, and they were looking forward to it all week.

 Ok, so here is the finished product of Tuna Tartare with Seaweed Salad in the Cornets that burned my fingers off.  They were so good. 

For some reason, I forgot to take a picture of the gruyere cheese gougeres (little cheesy creampuff like biscuits) AND the first course - Gazpacho.  I also forgot to ever mention making the gazpacho.  Probably because there is nothing exciting about it - but it was the best gazpacho I've ever eaten.  I'm having leftovers for lunch today.

Ok, so then we get to the second course.  This is the Salad of Globe Artichokes with Eggplant Caviar and a whole bunch of other veggies blanched and stacked on top with an herb salad.  The stuff around the edge is reduced balsamic vinagrette.  I was so pleasantly surprised by this dish.  It sounded so basic, and I don't love eggplant, but the eggplant ended up being my favorite part, and it was all so tasty, that I took a biscuit and cleaned the plate with it.

For the Third and "Main" course, we had the Maine Lobster Pancakes with Ginger-Carrot Emulsion and Watercress.  It was supposed to be Pea Shoots (Peas & Carrots) but we couldn't find those anywhere.  I was nervous about this dish.  I don't make crepes very well for some reason.  I mean, they always taste fine, but they are never, ever pretty.  I realized after this experience it's because I use too high of a heat.  I was able to make these crepes perfectly, and the lobster filling with the mascarpone cheese and reduced lobster glaze was so rich and decadent. And the carrot emulsion, which you wouldn't think would be that big of a deal was wonderful.  I probably could have eaten it plain.  The picture just really doesn't do it justice. 

So then for the cheese course, which is normally my least favorite course.  As much as I love cheese, I don't love it by itself.  I like for it to be an accent instead of the main flavor, and normally in cheese courses, the cheese is overpowering to me.  But this one was so good.  The cheese was pecorino toscano, more balsamic glaze around the edge, with an arugula & olive oil mix on the bottom, roasted red & yellow bell peppers (tossed in balsamic vinegar & olive oil), and a toasted baguette.  I wished afterward that I had bought more cheese.

And then finally, dessert. I was so nervous about this one, and it definitely was not as "pretty" as pictured in the book.  The paper towel thing was a little nerve wracking, and my mint oil, while tasty, was not as thick as what was pictured.  So you can tell it's not as quite as refined as it is supposed to be but it sure tasted good.  The bottom is a creme anglais custard, with a meringue hollowed out and filled with chocolate mousse.  Then a cookie and chocolate shavings on top, drizzled with mint oil.  

So it went great, all the kids cooperated nicely, Bennett waited until this morning to get sick, and a good time was had by all. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Everything is fine!

Well I'm pretty much back on schedule.  I started out today making the "cornets" for one of our canapes, Here are the molds and the stencil,

Here is one of my favorite foods, which happens to be a main ingredient in the cornets: butter. 

Here is the first batch that I made.  They were too thick, so we just ate them.  They were like pancakes a little bit, and cracked when I tried to roll them around the molds.  Plus they were pretty hot, and so I was slow.  And the thickness made it so that they didn't brown properly.  Anyway, I tried again.

Eventually, we had these.  Not quite perfectly browned, but they're going to work.  And taste wonderful once I fill them with tuna.  These are going to be my shout out to Chef Heinz at La Maison, who makes fabulous Tuna Nachos, however mine are going to be Tuna Cornets instead of on a fried wonton.

So those took most of the morning believe it or not.  But in between opening the oven door, burning my finger tips, and waiting for the silpat to cool down, we cooked the lobster.  
Here they are, helping me measure how much water I need to cook them in.

 Yummy delicious, lobster.

My help, playing with the lobsters while waiting for the water to boil.

All the delicious meat, ready to be put in a filling to stuff the crepes for the main dish tomorrow (except for our friend who gets the halibut).  Incidentally after my initial panic attack, I did feel sorry for the guy.  He doesn't know what he's missing out on! 

I also made the lobster glaze, which is basically stock that cooked pretty much ALL day, until 2 cups had cooked down to about a tablespoon.  This concentrated stuff is going in the filling for the crepes.

And then, this afternoon, I made the majority of the dessert. Here are the meringues, right after they've come out of the oven in their water bath.

Here is a mostly finished one, filled with the chocolate mousse.  It's supposed to be a surprise in the middle.  I'll dump this out onto a paper towel, then after some of the moisture is absorbed put it on top of some creme anglais, and then a little chocolate cookie on top with some chocolate shavings and mint oil.  I'm pretty excited to eat it.  I just hope I can pull off the whole paper towel part.

The last two things I did, were to juice 3 lbs of these beautiful red carrots and and little bit of ginger, and then cook the 2 cups of juice down to about half a cup.  This is going to mixed with lots of cream and butter tomorrow and will be the base of the lobster "pancakes".  
Here, is my sous chef, washing the carrots before we juice them.

I then took some of the carrot pulp left in the juicer, and microwaved it for over 40 minutes.  I have honestly never in my life microwaved anything that long.  After reading Nourishing Traditions I am just a little afraid that we all have radioactive waves just flowing through our bodies right now, but I'm trying to put it out of my mind.  I'll just try to eat enough organic meat next week to counteract the damage.  
Here is the pulp in the microwave.  

So tomorrow, I still have a lot to do, but it's a whole lot of little stuff, and as long as we don't have any major disasters (like say, oh, I don't know, Ansley accidentally eating Miles's heartworm medicine instead of giving it to him), should be totally attainable.  I was actually done by dinner time tonight, almost.  And Mr. Bob brought us dinner so I didn't even have to worry about that.  His "thanks" was some of the extra dessert that I didn't need - it wasn't pretty, because it was the scooped out middles of the meringues, but it sure tasted good.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH or Regaining my composure

So, today was supposed to be Lobster day.  That did not happen.  I went to my morning Bible study, which gets out at noon.  I knew I was going to have to get lunch in the kids before I could go to the store, and didn't want to have to load/unload and then load/unload/load again, so I had the great idea to just go to Earthfare since they have that little eating area next to their hot bar and deli.  So we get there, get our little sandwiches/pizza/macaroni and cheese, and eat an uneventful lunch.  Well Silas didn't eat, he was too busy arguing with a girl his age sitting a couple tables back over his drink.  Evidently she didn't believe that he had an apple juice and he was all out of sorts over it.  Anyhow, we eat, get a few other specialty things that I needed and head back to the seafood department.  When I arrived, I realized, they don't sell live lobster.  Oops.  How could this happen?  So, at this point there is NO WAY we are going to another store, Silas was already late for his nap, the babies were tired, I was already exhausted and I hadn't even started cooking yet. So we just came home.  
After I got Silas in bed and got the babies situated I came to my senses and just started making whatever I could.  It wasn't much. I made the mint oil for the dessert.  Well mostly made it, it's still infusing in the refrigerator so that it will achieve a bright green color.  Here is the mint in my herb-ball ready for blanching.

 I cut the rind off of the cheese for the cheese course and then sliced it on the mandoline.

 And then I cooked some balsamic vinegar to death until what was previously 1/2 cup ended up being the consistency of syrup.  All so I can pipe some dots on the plate of our salad and cheese course.  

I was about to start the cornets, when R. called to tell me that his buddy who is coming for the dinner - someone he has knows for like forever and who we didn't think to ask if he had any food allergies, because when you know someone for forever you assume you know their food allergies - is allergic to shellfish.  Last time I checked, lobster was a shellfish.  So about this time, my head started spinning.  Never have I changed the menu this late.  I mean never.  I have the menu ready weeks ahead of time and plan out my cooking schedule and this I was just not prepared to handle.  I immediately got a headache.  So, after taking a prescription strength aleve, I looked at all of my lists and realized that miraculously, we were going to pull this off just by changing the soup.  We're all still eating lobster, and this guy gets halibut.  I'm not sure how Thomas Keller would feel about this little change-up, and I really don't know how it's going to taste, but it's going to have to work.  Say a little prayer for me, R. is going to the grocery at like 7 am to get some lobsters... tomorrow is going to be a busy, busy day.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Short & Sweet

Today, I really did very little cooking.  I finished up the eggplant caviar, and then made creme anglais.  That's it. So, here is the vanilla bean, already split, but before I have scraped out all of the deliciousness.

 Here is the vanilla bean, pod and all, infusing with equal parts heavy cream and whole milk.  This part of the dessert is virtually fat free.

Finished product, waiting to be put in the fridge.

 Even though I did little cooking, I did have to run out to Wal-mart because I ran out of olive oil and needed it for the eggplant caviar, and when you have 5 children and the oldest is 6, this can be an ordeal.  Everyone was extremely well behaved, it just took about 45 minutes to get everyone ready to get in the car, and then an additional 20 to actually get in the car.  Then unloading everyone, including putting on the baby bjorn etc, takes approximately 10 minutes, and we have to walk through the parking lot holding hands so that takes another 5, and then just repeat on the trip back to the car.  So "running" out for olive oil takes around 2-3 hours to accomplish and you only spend like 15 minutes in the actual store. Tomorrow will be more interesting - it's lobster day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

On schedule so far!

So, today I made 3 things for our Friday dinner.  Chocolate Tuilles, pictured here (one component of the dessert) although I actually only baked 4 for practice.  I actually froze the dough, and will bake the cookies Thursday or Friday

Roasted yellow & red bell peppers, one part of the cheese course,

 and I started the eggplant caviar, which has no caviar in it at all, just eggplant and some seasoning.  Here it is after it has sweated for a couple of hours, right before I roast it....

 and here it is again, after I've scooped out the roasted flesh and am now draining it in the fridge. I'll finish it up either late tonight, or sometime tomorrow.

Not a heavy work day, but there are only so many things you can make this far in advance and every little thing helps.  So I'm going to tell you a story about the chili we're having for dinner, just to make life interesting.

We are officially homeschooling Kindergarten this year.  I have sort of made up our curriculum pulling from all sorts of different things - probably not something I'll repeat for future grades, but since it's only K.  and we're only doing formal schooling 3 days a week, it works.  Anyway, for our "history" we are studying different cultures.  I have this book that was a gift from someone, actually, that describes the lives of children all over the globe.  We do one continent at a time, and one kid a week.  Depending on the country we try to do a craft or read a book or watch a documentary or something related to this kid.  Sometimes, I try to cook a dish that the kid would eat.  Initially, I'll admit, this was self-serving.  I cook dinner 4-5 nights a  week.  If you have children, you may not be surprised to know that 4-5 nights a week, my kids complain about dinner before it ever hits their tongues.  Sometimes it never even hits their tongues.  Now, I don't make gross stuff.  But I also don't make "kid" stuff (except when I make mac n' cheese as a side item, which I try to do once a month but no more than that, because Ansley would eat her weight in it if I allowed it; she has been known to request it for breakfast.).  I try to make at least one thing that I am pretty confident that they'll eat, but we eat a good variety of foods.  The first time I ever heard a "thank you" was about a year or maybe 2 ago, and the first time that I ever served hot dogs for dinner.  The kids had eaten them before, but maybe just a couple of times and it was at a cookout or something.  I'm pretty sure I had never made them.  Colin, then probably 4 thanked me profusely for the "best dinner that I had ever made."  The only other time I've had a reaction like that was when we had cheese fondue dinner followed by chocolate fondue dessert (he actually hugged me after that one!).  

Anyway, so back to self-serving.  I wanted them to appreciate the food that was put in front of them every night, so we started with Africa, and not just any country in Africa, but Tanzania.  Those kids eat corn mush for dinner.  I figured if I put some corn mush in front of them, they might start eating the other stuff I make. I'll have to admit, it wasn't good.  I actually made polenta, but I tried to make it a little authentic, and it was kinda gross.  When we studied Morocco, I made lamb.  Colin got a stomach bug about a week later and tried to blame it on the lamb. So, lots of complaining still happening.  Then we did South America.  We just plain skipped North America because that's too familiar and there's no ethnic food in Antarctica, so we have made it around to Europe.  They think they've died and gone to heaven.  We did Hungary last week, and the girl we read about gets chocolate chip crepes.  Which brings me to tonight - we had chili - made with venison.  It was the closest thing to reindeer meat (which our friend from Finland eats) that I could muster. But I haven't told anyone that it was deer yet.  I honestly forgot until everyone had started eating.  Then I thought if I bring it up now, no one will finish their dinner, and Colin was already halfway through his.  Then the babies finished eating their leftover beet ice cream that I am determined not to waste, and it was bath time and then bedtime, and now, here I am, typing, and no one knows yet about the deer.  The End.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Feast or Famine

So I went from no posts to posting every day.

This week is officially Thomas Keller week.  Six of the nine birthdays that Russ has had since we've been married I have had the pleasure of cooking a nice meal for him on his birthday.  We try to do French themed stuff on special occasions, and so my favorite cookbook of all times, The French Laundry is my cookbook of choice for this dinner.  I have done a couple of repeats, but I always try something new, and I look forward to this week every year because it's the closest to culinary school I will probably ever get.  We have affectionately dubbed the dinner La Laverie. Which is French for "The Laundrymat."

The first time I did it, is was just us.  I stayed up late the night before and then spent the next day prepping a little bit, and then the dinner took a long, long time with the assembly and everything.  We had leftovers for about a week.  There were a couple of disasters, because I had only really been cooking for about a year at that point.  Also, I normally don't follow directions exactly. I have since learned that with Mr. Keller's cookbooks, the dish turns out fabulous if I follow the directions.  I've also learned to distinguish a little better which things I can not follow the directions on.  Each of the recipes has several components (we normally do 5 courses) and so these days I have to choose recipes where I can make several of the components days in advance.  I start cooking early in the week, and then the day of and prior to are very heavy cooking days.  So I'm going to try to keep up and blog a little each day, but I might have to finish up next week.  Anyway, it was while planning this year's menu that I came across the beet ice cream recipe, which I'm sure was fabulous with the Chocolate Cake that Mr. Keller paired it with, was far better with the brownies than stand alone, but just really was not a hit.  Except with Bennett and Graham, but we've already talked about that.  Here is a picture of it, and we have plenty of leftovers if you're hankering to try something new:

Ok, so back to my adventures in cooking.  Today, I cooked artichokes.  Here is an artichoke:

In all my years cooking, I have never cooked a fresh artichoke.  I know it's terrible.  I try to stay away from all things canned personally, but artichokes are one thing I have always bought canned. Until today.  First, I had to pull off the bottom leaves. 

Then cut off of the top

Then cut off the stem

and then, scrape out the fuzz (which I guess, technically, is called the "choke")

That last picture is actually fuzz that I had to dig out of the trash, because artichokes discolor if you're not fast enough (there's always a learning curve, so I was a little slow on the first one) and by the time I got to the last one the babies had realized that I was actually accomplishing something, and rushed to the scene and were about to pull the whole trash can over.  So I had to hurry, and then dig out the fuzz later.  But you get the idea.   

Anyway, this is going in a salad which will be our second course, I think.  I'll have to consult the menu.  I marinated them and cooked them for a while, and I'll make the other parts at a later date because they can't be made as far in advance. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cooking Class

I love food.  And I love to cook.  I mean, really.  I have been sort of obsessed with food/cooking a little more these last few months.  Probably due in large part to all of my research on mouth ulcers, sheep dairying, and other random stuff - everything was pointing me toward organic.  So I started buying local, in season as much as possible.  I made it one of my goals for 2012 to try to go completely organic by the end of this year.  We'll see how that pans out.  In any case I have started trying new foods, vegetables in particular, in the attempt to stay in season.  Two that I can honestly say I never ate until this last year are parsnips and beets.  I love them both.  Who knew?  I have been trying to find new and different ways to cook them both - none of which have been received well by any of my kids.  Well I take that back, the babies will eat both parsnips and beets.  But they also eat the bark off of the floor that the kids track in from their playground, so I'm not sure that they count at this juncture in their lives.

I think I am most surprised at my love for beets.  Maybe it's because they have such a bad reputation - but people - they are good.  I have thus far tried them 4 ways.  First:  Shredded and sauteed in bacon grease (one of my new things - after reading a particular cookbook which has me scared witless about using canola anymore).  They were great, but what doesn't taste good sauteed in bacon grease?  Second: Cranberry Borscht.  This was just ok.  I'm not a huge cabbage fan, but I did eat it leftover so it obviously wan't too bad.  Third: My favorite way so far - just roasted in the oven in foil, with a little olive oil salt & pepper.  Perfect.  I think I might have actually eaten near a pound of them myself.  And lastly, today in ice cream.  Yes that's right, Ice Cream.  Ya see, I intend to write about my love for all things Thomas Keller here in a few days, but there's just way too much back story since I can't tell a short one, so starting right in the middle of the story, he has this recipe for Chocolate cake with beet ice cream.  I have not made anything by this man that wasn't wonderful, so I figured I'd try it.  Now, I didn't try it with the cake, which is a mistake.  Because you can't take one thing from any of his recipes and eat it alone - all the flavors go together and they end up being amazing.  So I'm hoping that when I serve it at Sunday lunch tomorrow with some fudge brownies, something amazing happens.  Because right now, the ice cream tastes like beets.  Hubs said "I don't think we should call this ice cream."  And nearly tripped over himself on the way to the fridge to get a drink.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Well I get an "F" in blog updates.  Sorry.

I've been meaning for some time to write down Ansleyisms.  She says some of the funniest stuff that I know I'll forget.  So I'm dedicating this post to her 4 year old brain.  As confused as we who try to understand her are most of the time, I know I will miss it one day.

She is SO literal. I wish I had recorded a conversation we had just before Christmas, when we were discussing what to get Uncle Thomas.  He didn't want any Christmas presents this year, which provided us a great opportunity to talk about contentment.  We sat down with the World Vision catalog to pick out an animal to donate in his honor.  I explained to the kids that some kids didn't have toys or even food or homes, and that we were going to pick out something to send these kids.  We eventually chose ducks, and then Ansley started asking questions:
A: "So where are we going to get the ducks?"
me:  "We're going to order them from the catalog."
A: "Are we going to take the ducks to the kids? Or is Uncle Thomas going to take the ducks?  He goes a lot of places."
me: "Yes, he does go a lot of places, but we are just going to order the ducks, so we won't ever see or hold them.  Someone else will deliver the ducks."
A: "Will a farmer deliver the ducks?"
me: "Yes"
A: "Can we go with the farmer?"
Ok, so you get the idea.  This actually went on for what seemed like a small eternity, but was probably only like 10 minutes.  When we were finished, I was pretty sure that I had explained this every way humanly possible, and that she understood.  Then, at dinner that evening, when they were telling Daddy about their day, she says "Daddy! We're getting Uncle Thomas a kid for Christmas.  Because he doesn't have a kid."

Something like this happens weekly it seems.  Then there are the regular just every day sort of comments, when we are following R. home from somewhere and the kids think it's a race and she'll blurt out "Is Daddy going to beat us or are we going to beat ourselves?"  

But I do need to start writing them all down, because she is growing up way too fast. Russ is always wanting me to read articles and so he had one that I just made him paraphrase for me because I don't have time for that sort of thing normally, and it was about how the teen years start earlier and last longer because kids don't have responsibilities in the family.  This ends up being bad when they get to be adults.  His paraphrase was longer than that, but I just superparaphrased it for you. Anyway, so we do girl things together.  She helps me cook, and as soon as she wakes up she asks if she can help me take care of the babies today.  She wants to help me with everything.  She starts planning her day when she's going to bed the night before.  Most important on the list is "What are we having for breakfast?"  which probably is in large part due to the unfortunate fact that she normally doesn't want to eat her dinner.  At any rate, I love her little mind.  One day, I hope to understand it.